Angolan ceasefire welcomed by religious delegation

 The tentative ceasefire announced by the Angolan government last week, has been welcomed by a delegation of British religious ministers just back from a visit to the country. Fr Pat Browne, from Westminster diocese, who was part of the ecumenical delegation, said: "Everybody we spoke to wished for this ceasefire, but of itself it does not solve the problems." The trip, arranged jointly by CAFOD and Christian Aid, was at the invitation of Angolan based group COIEPA. The delegates left the country on the day the ceasefire was announced. Angola has been embroiled in a civil war since the end of Portuguese colonial role in 1975 and it has claimed more than 500,000 lives. The government ceasefire follows the killing more than two weeks ago of Unita leader Jonas Savimbi. The Angolan rebel movement has said it may follow the government's halt to military action. Fr Browne said: "The death of Savimbi in itself does not guarantee peace. His death impacts on the process for peace but doesn't change it. The issues that need to be addressed are bigger than any one man." He added: "There are the huge problems of getting the displaced people back to their homes and addressing the problems of huge numbers of soldiers on both sides; How do you re-programme their mindset from one of violence? The country must be de-mined and the people given the seeds and tools to work the land again." Angola is rich in oil reserves and diamonds. It also has some of the best farming land in Africa. Despite all this, it is one of the world's poorest countries and life expectancy is among the lowest on the continent. Fr Browne said: "Peace is the first necessary step for any rebuilding of the country. As long as there was fighting both sides had the excuse for the mismanagement of the wealth of the country, and for a lot of that wealth to disappear." The delegation included a Scottish Quaker, a Congregational Minister from Wales who is also part of the Welsh Assembly and an Anglican priest from the diocese of London as well as Fr Browne who is Vocations Director for Westminster and parish priest at Holy Apostles, Pimlico. COIEPA is made up of the Catholic Bishops Conference (CEAST), The Alliance of Evangelical Churches (AEA), and the Council of Churches in Angola (CICA).

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